A constant fear of evacuation and deplorable living conditions have become routine for people living in Kollam's Pullikkada colony.

Barely 2 kilometres from Kollam Corporation Office a colony lives with open drains no toilets
news Society Friday, June 29, 2018 - 19:04

In the heart of Kollam city, lies a colony with narrow lanes separating blocks of houses with thatched or asbestos roofs. Open drains flow in front of the homes, that get flooded every time it rains and then emit a pungent odour. These are some of the day-to-day challenges faced by the people living in Kollam’s Pullikkada colony.

Located 500 meters away from the Railway Station, the colony is just a stone’s throw away from the Corporation office in Kollam. A main junction near the city’s business centre leads the way into the colony.

The residents of the colony, which is located on the railway poramboke, have ration cards and identity cards, but no title deeds since the land is owned by the Railways. A constant fear of evacuation and deplorable living conditions have become routine for the people living in these colonies. The 280 houses, with an area of about 200 square feet each, are home to over 1,000 people.  

The colony was rebuilt by the government after it was gutted in a fire 18 years ago but till now, no attempt has been made to move the residents to an area with better living conditions.

Rains make life worse

67-year-old Saliha Beevi moved to the colony 56 years ago. Eight members of her family live in the two rooms of their home. Waterlogged streets make it difficult to walk to the entrance of the house.

“See my legs... walking through the wet floor in my house and on the mud on the lanes has caused leg sores. It’s not possible to go to the government hospital every day as it’s crowded with patients. I just put some ointment and manage,” she says.

Saliha adds that the younger generations cannot move out to the outskirts, where they can afford bigger homes, since they will not be able to find the same kind of employment opportunities they do here.

The one rooms called houses

67-year-old Usha lives with her son, 43-year-old Anil Kumar in one room. The room is hardly 200 square feet and has a kitchen, a bed, a refrigerator, a television and a few other household items.

“The roof was so dilapidated that we feared it would fall on nus any time. We managed to take a loan before the monsoon and put some asbestos on the roof to plug the leaking. When my husband was alive, we submitted many memorandums to the authorities to get a possession certificate.The fear of evacuation prevents us from renovating the house any further,” Usha says.

Usha’s second son, Asok Kumar, lives in the room adjacent to hers with his wife and two children. Their home also has one room. “A partition is made out of clothes in houses that have children,” Usha says.

Usha’s neighbour, Saralamma, lives in similar conditions but her house is comparatively newer. The government built a few new homes after some of them were gutted in a fire. But these houses are nothing more than one room blocks.

Saralamma’s 65-year-old husband, Damodaran, whose health is weak, lies on a bed near the gas stove and cooking vessels. She cooks the day’s meal standing near him.

“What will happen by complaining about these things? Where do we go from here? The people living here in colonies are daily wage labourers,” says Saralamma. Pointing to drain outside her home, she says, “See, even septic waste flows through here.. It’s stinking.”

There are common bathrooms and latrines for all the families. A few years ago, some families got toilets constructed in little spaces near their homes.

“Not all the families have bathrooms or toilets. Some go to their relatives’ houses to use toilets. The common bathrooms are not usable. There are high chances of a disease outbreak. Recently, many people here contracted chicken pox. And health officers come here only when there is an outbreak. We are given classes on how water should not be kept for long hours even in a bowl to avoid the breeding of mosquitoes. But what about these waterlogged drains?” asks Indira Bhai.

Indira shares that though the colony is located close to the civic office, the authorities don’t care

“No one is bothered about the health of the people here though the colony is right under the their nose. A month ago, the tap water was yellow and had a foul smell,” she adds.

Indira works as a teacher at the only Anganwadi in the colony. The Anganwadi was built in 1998 and has seen no maintenance since then. The ceiling leaks, the windows are broken and unopenable.

“Successive governments have lacked any commitment to improve life here. They could have envisaged a project for us over the past years to rehabilitate us,” shares Chandran, another inhabitant of the colony.



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